ICC to ‘deprioritise’ investigation into alleged US war crimes in renewed Afghan probe, will focus on Taliban and ISIS-K

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested approval to resume a war crimes investigation into Afghanistan which won’t focus on alleged US offenses, but those committed by the Taliban and other groups.

In a statement on Monday, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said he had filed an application to resume his office’s investigation into alleged atrocities committed in Afghanistan since July 1, 2002. 

Khan, who is six months into his nine-year tenure, said the investigations would be focused on the actions of the Taliban and the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) militia. He added that other aspects of the investigation would be “deprioritised” due to a lack of resources and would focus on “the scale and nature of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court.” 

The prosecutor said his decision to file to resume was a reflection on the current state of affairs in Afghanistan. “There is no longer the prospect of genuine and effective domestic investigations into Article 5 crimes within Afghanistan. It is this finding that has necessitated the present application,” he stated. 

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The ICC investigation, which was opened in full last year, was later postponed as the Afghan government said it would investigate those crimes itself. The Hague-based court had been looking at atrocities in the region for 15 years, including possible offenses committed by US and NATO troops.

In his statement, Khan specifically noted the “the deplorable attacks of August 26, 2021, near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, which were claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province,” and added a determination to prioritize crimes “by IS-K, as well as the Taliban.”

The associate director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, Patricia Gossman, told the Associated Press that the prosecutor’s statement was “really disturbing” insofar as the investigation “will only prioritize some of the parties to the conflict – and in particular seemingly to ignore entirely the very serious allegations against U.S. forces and CIA.”

Horia Mosadiq, an Afghan human rights activist, also condemned the ICC prosecutor’s announcement, claiming it was an “an insult to thousands of other victims of crimes by Afghan government forces and US and NATO forces.”

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